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Most websites have some sort of search function, but a non-trivial number don't. Is this just an oversight by the designers, or are there good reasons for not providing search? Personally I hate websites without a search function, but then again, what I don't know about UX would fill a great book.

I run a small, uncontroversial website which is frankly pretty primitive. We got a pro to redesign the site and I'm duly impressed with the result. However in his remake he removed the search function; communication is poor (I send polite emails, he does not reply) and I can't find out why he removed it. Before I escalate matters to force communication I'd like to know what his reasons might have been.

Edit: Our site is not commercial, it's concerned with sustainability in the inner city (insulation of houses with protected monument status and the like). At present it has about a dozen pages but we hope this will increase.

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    It depends on the scale of the site's content, really.
    – Tim Huynh
    Jun 5 at 22:27
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Yes

If the site has a lot of content that cannot be accessed directly (reference pages, newspapers, e-commerce), then search is part of the site's Information Architecture, and it could even have mechanisms to further improve content discovery, such as filtering, sorting, faceted searching, etc.

In general, having a search function is a very good thing, but there are options.

No

However, if the site is small, you don't (necessarily) need it. It might even be detrimental to your users' experience. Imagine someone searches for content and always gets 1 or 2 results (or even worse: 0 results).

Also, there are some scenarios where search should not be used. This is very common in marketing, when the user flow is designed for one reason only: to engage customers.

In this type of scenario, any distraction or interruption to the user flow will result in a higher abandonment rate. Therefore, flow interruptions are kept to a minimum. And remember that search is one of the most important interruptions in user flow design: the user leaves your user flow to search for something, so it is very difficult to predict a funnel or user journey

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First of all, your designer owes you an explanation for removing search if it was in scope for the project, and you are entitled to adjust their compensation if that is not resolved.

Common explanations for removing on-site search are that your site is too small to need it, or the search appliance that comes with the content management system is terrible, and yields poor results. Users might be using Google or other search engines to find what they need on your site and not engaging with the search box at all. Usually, that information surfaces in the data after search is on the site for a while; maybe your designer found that data in the old version. Some designers just don't want search cluttering the interface.

Whatever the reason, you are owed an explanation. Push back hard on that.

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  • Regarding google being better than your own search feature: It's actually pretty easy to get a Google-backed search bar for your site. Or just create your own by creating a redirect to https://www.google.com/search?q=site:example.com+example+query
    – Philipp
    Jun 7 at 10:30
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It depends on the contents. I would not use a research in a single page website with just a presentation, or where the presentation order is somehow the content itself. If you have many products, or many posts, the users may be interested in quickly find what they are looking for and not wandering.

Just be aware that a really useful research bar needs a very complicated IT infrastructure and algorithms behind and this could be expensive and/or complicated to maintain

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  • Regarding your last paragraph: It's not complicated at all when you use a 3rd party solution. Like google, for example.
    – Philipp
    Jun 7 at 10:39
  • That's true, but in this case it can be expensive for high volumes of traffic Jun 7 at 13:37

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